Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 46
Why Hebrews Was Written
Today we’re going to start in the Book of Hebrews. It was 6 years ago that we started teaching Paul’s letters? We’ve been totally in Paul’s epistles now for a long time, and in the last lesson we finished up with Timothy and Titus. Now I think Hebrews also is an epistle of Paul, although it is not directed to the Gentiles or the Church, but rather it’s directed to Jewish believers. There has always been a lot of controversy over this letter as to its authorship, and as to its time of writing and so forth. And again I’m not a theologian, so I don’t have to get hung up on any of these big heavyweight arguments. I just tell you what I think it is, and I believe the Apostle Paul is definitely the author of the Book of Hebrews, and I’ll show you in a few moments why I’m quite adamant about that.
Secondly, I’ve always felt that it was one of his earlier letters, if not the earliest. I read something this past week confirming that, and that is in some of the earliest or ancient manuscripts of our New Testament, the Book of Hebrews followed I and II Thessalonians. Now everyone is pretty much agreed that the Thessalonian letters were the first of Paul’s writings, and so if Hebrews in the ancient manuscripts followed Thessalonians, then that falls right in line with what I’ve always thought, that it is one of his earliest letters.
Another thing I think we have to realize now as we get into Hebrews, is that there is absolutely nothing of Church language. In other words, you won’t find a Roman road to Salvation in Hebrews. There is not a Hebrews road to Salvation, so, “What’s the theme of the Book?” The theme of the Book of Hebrews is two fold.
1. We’re showing a constant comparison of how this economy now under Grace is so much better than anything that went before. And we’ll be looking for that over and over throughout this Book. We’ll see this is better! Yes, the law was good, but this is so much better.
2. More preeminent in importance is that Hebrews is going to point out Who Jesus Christ really is. He is God the Son, and we’ll emphasize that as well as we go through this letter.
So those are some of the things that we want to use as an introduction to this tremendous letter to the Hebrews, that it is not a book of Church doctrine, as you won’t find a single word in here about Salvation based on Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, or any reference to the Body of Christ, or any reference to faith + nothing as we see so often in Romans. Nor is it a Book of corrections and admonitions like the Book of Galatians is. So it’s just totally different. In fact, I’m going to compare this letter to the Hebrews with the Old Testament, and that’s the way I’m going to treat it.
Remember when I taught about the tabernacle, I pointed out that everything back there in Exodus that described the tabernacle – the gold, the silver, the brass, the wood, the linen, the purples, the red, and white, every jot and tittle of the tabernacle – was a picture of one way or other of Jesus Christ. Well the Book of Hebrews is going to do the same thing. It’s going to just show us what a tremendous important personage Jesus Christ really is. Remember over the years, I’ve referred to a gentlemen who came up to my ranch house one day, and asked the question, “Who in the world is Jesus Christ?” Well Hebrews is going to point it out very clearly.
Now I said in the beginning of my remarks that I was quite confident that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews, and I use a comment from II Peter chapter 3 to prove that. We have to do everything as much according to the Book as we possibly can. I told someone on the phone the other day that had a question about something, that you have to remember, the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know. “But the Bible does tell us everything that we need to know.” So there are areas where we just simply have to say, “Well the Bible doesn’t tell us,” and let it go at that.
But here in II Peter I think we have ample proof from the pen of the Apostle Peter writing to the Jewish community just shortly before he is martyred. Remember they’re both martyred close to the same time. I use these verses so often to emphasize Paul’s apostleship, but now I’m going to use them to emphasize Paul’s authorship of the letter of Hebrews.
II Peter 3:15
“And account (or understand) that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation, even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;” Let’s qualify who are the “you” that Peter is addressing. Well come back to I Peter chapter 1, and there we see very plainly that Peter is writing to Jews, not Gentiles, not even a mixture of each. He is writing to Jews of the dispersion.
I Peter 1:1
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”
So who is he addressing? Jews of the dispersion who had already been scattered away from their home area of Jerusalem and Judea. So now coming back to II Peter chapter 3, let’s finish our thought. Peter is letting them know that these people to whom he is writing had received a letter from the Apostle Paul. I read an article again the other day that all the Church fathers never were aware of any other letter that Peter could have been alluding to. This is the only one. I think it just makes all the proof in the world. Verse 15 again.
II Peter 3:15
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;” (Jews) Then you go into the next verse, and if anyone is tempted to feel that Paul’s writings do not belong in our Bible, then here is proof by the writing of the Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, like any other writer of Scripture, that Paul’s letters are all Scripture.
II Peter 3:16
“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; (these things which pertain to Salvation up there in verse 15) in which are some things hard to be understood, (even Peter at his late date had a very hard time comprehending these doctrines of Grace that had come from the Apostle Paul’s pen, but nevertheless, he is still agreeing, that) which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
Now when you say the other Scriptures, after talking about Paul, what does it make them all? Scripture! So Paul’s letters, even by the inspiration of Peter’s pen, are still all Scripture. So if anyone ever tells you, “Well I don’t think much of Paul’s writing,” then you just take them right to these verses. This is as plain as it can get that Paul was just as much a writer of the Word of God as Moses, Isaiah, or John, Peter or anyone else.
Now back to Hebrews chapter 1, and we find then that this letter was definitely written by the Apostle Paul, probably early on in his ministry, and the reason I say early on- let’s go to Romans 1:16, and that will confirm why I feel that this Hebrew letter had to be written before many of his other epistles.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it (the Gospel) is the power (remember this word power, because we’ll be referring to it as we teach. For this Gospel) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; (now what is the process?) to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Now wouldn’t it also make sense then, that it would be the same order in his epistles? He’s going to write an epistle to the Jews first, then epistles to the Gentiles. So now when you come back to Hebrews chapter 1, we probably won’t get further than the first word in this lesson. And what is the first word?
“God,…” G-O-D, just exactly like the way Genesis begins. Well let’s go back to Genesis and compare Scripture with Scripture. We’re just going to take our time as we teach Hebrews, and it may take us as long as it did some of the other epistles of Paul. But here in Genesis chapter 1 we have the same terminology.
“In the beginning God…”
Do you see that? Now back in Hebrews, written in Hebrew, this term God is Elohim, and Elohim in the Hebrew was a plural word. Elohim when used with a small “e” it was translated gods, with a reference to the pagan gods, and it was a plural term. So elohim is not singular, but rather plural. So it gives rise of course to what we call a Triune God. Now I’m not going to use the word Trinity, because the first thing people call and complain about is, “Well the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible.” Well I know that, because it’s a coined term, and one that everyone understands, so I won’t use it to satisfy those folks. But Elohim is a plural term for the Triune Godhead. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three are co-equal, in that term Elohim, that Triune Godhead!
Now this Godhead was all involved in creation, but when we get to the New Testament we find that the second Person of this Triune Godhead, “God the Son” steps outs and becomes then the Creator! We looked at those Scriptures when we taught from Genesis, and I guess we’d better do it even when I teach from Hebrews. So here in Genesis 1:1, the Triune God is reckoned as the Creator, but now jump up to John’s gospel chapter 1, to see that God the Son was the One Who did the creating. So this Triune God designated the work of creation to the Communicator, and we see that here in John chapter 1.
“In the beginning was the Word, (and what do you do with words? You communicate! That’s the whole idea, that in the beginning there was a Person in the Godhead that would communicate. He would express thought, and things that happen) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So the Communicator, the Son, was no less than the Father, no more than the Spirit, because the Three were co-equal in the Godhead. So the Word was God! Now verse 3.
“All things were made by him; (now I’m a stickler for grammar, and I’m always showing what modifies what? Well it says all things were made by him is referring to the Word up in verse 1) and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Now to confirm that this is speaking of the Word, or Christ, or Jesus the Son, as we knew Him in the four gospel accounts, just drop down to verse 14.
“And the Word (this Communicator) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)…” Now later on this afternoon we’re going to look at this phrase “the only begotten.” But for now let’s just let it sit for the time being.
“…full of grace and truth.” Now that’s the Word! If you’ll come on over into Paul’s writings over in Ephesians chapter 3, and we can drop right down to verse 9, and we’ll see Paul also tells us the Son was the Creator. Remember the Scriptures all fit.
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, (the Triune God, but the same God) who created all things by Jesus Christ:”
Do you see how plain that is? Sure the Godhead was involved, all Three of them. The Elohim of Genesis 1:1. But the Son steps out and speaks the Word and communicates to the nothing that was there, and out came creation of the universe. Now let’s come over to Colossians chapter 1, where Paul makes it even so much plainer. And let’s just drop in at verse 12, so we’re sure who we’re talking about. And Paul writes:
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet (or prepared us) to partakers of the inheritance (we’ll be looking at that word also in Hebrews) of the saints in light: 13. Who (speaking of God the Father) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath (already) translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (we’ll also chase that word down from Genesis through Scripture, the word Son after a while) 14. In whom (that is in the Son) we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (now here comes the part about creation) 15. Who (speaking of the Son) is the image of the invisible God,”
Now what does that mean? This Triune Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was never visible. The Godhead was an invisible Spirit, and it operated in the invisible. But when the time came it was God the Son Who stepped out and became then the visible manifestation of all three. That’s why in John 14, when Philip said, “Show us the Father and it suffice us.” What did Jesus say to Philip? “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father!” Why? Because Jesus was the manifestation of the invisible Godhead. Now read on in verse 15.
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (He was before anything was ever created. He comes from eternity past) 16. For by him (God the Son) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Everything was created by and for Him. Now verse 17. He is still the controlling power, even after His work of the cross, and having been risen from the dead. He is the all powerful God.
“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
And consist means, “held together.” My, the world today knows nothing of this. For the average citizen of this world, Jesus Christ is just a cuss word. He’s just somebody to blaspheme, He’s someone to ridicule, but oh, one day, the world is going to stand before Him and they’re going drop to their immortal knees, and they’re going to recognize that He was indeed the Creator of everything – never lose sight of that!
But even Revelation says, “Jesus Christ was the Creator of everything.” I can never emphasize that enough because so few people realize it. My, I’ve had people write and tell me, that they had been in church all their lives – many who had been Sunday school teachers for over 20 years – and they never knew that these verses were in their Bible. But here they are just as plain as day. Listen, this is what makes our Gospel of Salvation head and shoulders above any religion in the whole wide world. There is not a religion on this planet that has the Creator God as their Saviour as we have. That’s why we can express this with so much confidence. We’re not putting our faith in some dead God, or some idol. We’re not putting our faith in some far flung philosophy, but rather we’re putting our faith in the visible manifestation of the invisible God. And one day we’re going to see Him face to face, and we’re going to be with Him the Scriptures say, for all eternity.
I’ve made reference to this before; it’s amazing how the world will just gather by the millions to get just a glimpse of some famous world personality, whether he be a politician, religious leader, or athlete or whatever, and will just about do anything to get just a little glimpse, and then they use this Person, our Lord and Saviour, as an object of ridicule. They use the Creator of everything as a cuss word, and it is so disheartening, for those of us who believe. And we can see from the Word of God that God the Son stepped out of the invisible Godhead because then the Communicator to whatever it took to bring all the things of the universe into being. So reading all of verse 1 in Hebrews chapter 1.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.”
So in our next lesson, we’re going to take a look at why Paul admonishes us to study the Old Testament. It’s just like the Book of Hebrews, there’s not a Roman Road to Salvation in the Old Testament. There’s not a plan of Salvation for us in the Old Testament, there’s nothing of the Gospel of Grace in the Old Testament – but we study it, and we rest on it because it’s the building block that God has laid down just like a secular education. My, I’ve used this example many times; how far would a young person get if all of a sudden without any previous education in grade school or high school, you plunk him down in a calculus class at the university? How long would he last? Not more than 5 minutes. Why? He has not had the building blocks of education.